You have a belt test coming up. Maybe this is your first test ever. Or maybe you’ve done this before and know what to expect. Either way, chances are, you’re probably feeling nervous. The thought of performing in front of everyone is likely making your stomach flutter and your heart race and your palms sweat. And that’s just thinking about it. Never mind actually doing it.

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Nerves Are Normal

I want to ease your mind a bit here. Everyone feels nervous during a belt test. Anxiety is normal. You’re going to be performing in front of people you respect, and you want to impress them. You don’t want to make mistakes, look foolish, or disappoint them.

This test is important to you. You’ve worked hard for this. You really want to pass. So some anxiety is to be expected. Your Sensei expects it. The other students expect it. Your family expects it.

Being nervous means this matters to you. It means you care. And when it comes down to it, those nerves will help you work harder during your belt test.

You’re Ready For This

Remind yourself of something important: your Sensei invited you to this belt test because you’re ready. You might not feel ready, but you are. Your Sensei has been watching you in class and monitoring your progress. Your belt test invitation is proof of your Sensei’s confidence in you. I mean, don’t get me wrong, passing isn’t a guarantee. You do need to work hard, and show respect for your Sensei and fellow students. But if you do those things, if you try your best, chances are you will pass this test.

You Will Make Mistakes

When you do make a mistake during your test—and I say “do,” because EVERYONE makes mistakes when they’re nervous—just try to act as if you didn’t make a mistake. Don’t make a big deal out of it. Move on. Making a mistake doesn’t mean you’ll fail. It just means you made a mistake. People mess up during belt tests all the time: they use the wrong technique, forget their kata, perform the wrong kata, drop their weapon, smack themselves on the head with their wooden nunchucks and swear really loudly…. (Um… yeah. That might have been me. But hey! I still passed that test!)

Try not to do those things, but if you do, just remind yourself that everyone makes mistakes. It’s okay.

You Got This

You’ve been training hard in class. You’ve been practising all of your punches and blocks and kicks and kata. You’re ready for this.

So don’t be too hard on yourself. You are nervous, but you’re also excited. You get to do a belt test! How cool is that?! A chance to get up there and show off all of your hard work to all of those people who matter so much: your Sensei, your Sempais, your family and your friends. But most importantly to you.

Here’s your chance to prove to yourself that you’ve earned this. To show yourself you deserve this. And at the end of it, after all of that hard work and nervousness, if you get out there and try your best, you will come out of it with something pretty cool: a certificate, a brand new belt, and a feeling of pride in yourself. That last one being the most important.

So get out there and show your worth. You got this!

How do you handle nerves during a belt test? Any tips for your fellow karateka?